A Dash of Scandal by Amelia Grey
(Jove, $6.99, PG) ISBN 0-515-13401-5
****
A hero who isnít a rake, even though heís called one, a heroine who isnít a bluestocking or a naÔve twit, could A Dash of Scandal really be a Regency historical romance? Bless my soul, it is and a good one at that.

Millicent Blair has never had a Season. Her mother was ruined by scandal was, driven from London by society and has never returned for the past twenty-one years. So, it is with much hesitation that Millicent agrees to come to London and help her Aunt Beatrice write her society gossip column. The fictitious Lord Truefitt writes the column, and itís imperative that ďhisĒ true identity remains a secret. After all, many of Lord Truefittís subjects donít appreciate his gossip.

One of these subjects is Chandler Preswick, the Earl of Dunraven. He and two of his closest friends are known around town as the Terrible Threesome. Those were the old days and now Chandler, tired of carousing, is looking to settle down. Before he can do that, however, he must find out the identity of the Mad Ton Thief who has been stealing artifacts, most notably the priceless golden Raven from Chandlerís home.

The two characters meet at a society party, when Chandler comes upon Millicent making notes for the column in a darkened alcove. Captivated by Millicentís charm and lack of silly affectations, Chandler wants to get to know her better. Millicent canít allow that and risk exposing her auntís secret. Still, the attraction between them is undeniable, and they find themselves eventually working together to find the thief.

Both Chandler and Millicent are fine characters. Although a self-described rake, Chandler never acts as such. Although he is attracted to Millicent, and is trying to win her over, he never stoops to real rakish behavior. He never tries to seduce her into compliance, like so many heroes. He also informs her of his attraction and of his plans to win her over. We need more ďrakesĒ like that.

Millicent is also a charmer. She is neither a silly, innocent debutant, nor is she an annoying bluestocking. Best of all, she does not fall apart and lose her sensibility when in close proximity to the hero. She turns down his suit flat, but admits she finds him attractive. Millicent is not a game player. The only flaw in Millicent is she is too easily persuaded by her aunt, she was such a strong character otherwise that I wish sheíd shown a little more gumption.

The mystery subplot of the Mad Ton Thief is kept to the backburner, where it belongs. It doesnít interfere with the story or distract the reader from the growing relationship between Millicent and Chandler. Also well done are Chandlerís two friends, the other members of the Terrible Threesome. Too often when authors create a group of friends they turn into stereotypes. There is the hero, the toady and the friend who turns backstabber. This is not the case in A Dash of Scandal. Instead, Chandlerís friends are just like him. Theyíre all feeling their age and realizing that they canít be wild, young roustabouts forever. As the three of them start to look at women for more than just a conquest, itís amusing to watch their puzzlement at having grown up.

Really, the only faults in the book are minor annoyances. For example, I could never figure out what the big deal was about Millicentís mother. Millicent talks about all the suffering and torment her mother had to go through due to society and the scandal. Her mother ended up marrying a loving man, had a wonderful marriage, a lovely child and was well off financially. Doesnít sound much like suffering and torment to me. All I could think was maybe Millicentís mother was the heroine in a previous book and thatís why it was made into a big deal.

Otherwise, Dash of Scandal offers more than just a dash of enjoyment. It was a light, witty book perfect for an afternoon of reading.

--Anne Bulin


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